The rapid technological changes, coupled with globalization in the 19th century, necessitated the coordination and regulation of these activities. As a result, many international actors in the form of intergovernmental organizations (IGOs). Today, these bodies are considered great avenues for dealing with global issues. According to Ertürk (2015, 333), IGOs are entities created through agreements, involving several nations to address issues of common interest. The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR), for example, is an inter-governmental organization that focuses on protection, promotion, and strengthening of human rights across the world. Replacing the former United Nations Commission on Human Rights, the council boasts of 47 member states. It was created in 2006 by the UN General Assembly and held its first meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. The study ignores the involvement of multinational companies (MNCs) and Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), given that they either have little or limited legal rights to engage in international human rights laws matters. Instead, the study will examine how the UNHCR has contributed to the protection and promotion of human rights in Syria. It will also outline its successes and failures in addressing the crisis in Syria.
Background of the Syrian Conflict
In 2011, thousands of people began escaping a developing conflict in Syria that would later become the greatest humanitarian crisis in history. Eight years down the line, the conflict has claimed over 500,000 lives and forced over five million people into exile around the neighboring countries (Barnes 2009, 6). Additionally, the Syrian Conflict has internally displaced millions of people who are now surviving on humanitarian assistance. With over half of its population forced to escape, Syria now registers the highest number of refugees and internally displaced persons. Despite the crisis, thousands of families continue to show their resilience and readiness to raise their children in their temporary houses. Many courageously continue pursuing their entrepreneurial spirit with the desire to restore hope and dignity in their lives.
Background of the actions taken
During this period, the UNHCR has been on the forefront, providing those forced to escape with shelter, food, and other essential services. Besides helping the refugees with basic necessities, the UNHCR has called on all the involved parties to join hands to bring to an end the conflict through a peaceful resolution (Barnes 2009, 13). In 2014, the UNHCR passed the 14th resolution that condemned that disturbingly serious abuses to human rights and the subsequent violation of the international humanitarian laws. Following the passing of this resolution, a series of other interventions have been made by the Human Rights Commission in an effort to end the brutal Syrian Conflict. The UNHCR has continued to provide support while monitoring the humanitarian situation on a regular basis. The most recent intervention was a resolution passed in December 2018, providing Kuwait and Sweden with cross-border access to Syria to provide humanitarian assistance to the victims of the conflict. Prior to this resolution, the UNHCR had unanimously adopted another resolution that demanded the cessation of hostilities in Syria.
The Impact of the Syrian Civil War
In a recent interview, the UNHCR admitted, through its spokesperson, admitted that it was running out of money and could not meet the basic needs of the Syrian Conflict refugees. Citing the increasing number of refugees in the Middle East, the council was forced to reduce its funding on food and healthcare to millions of refugees and other internally displaced persons in Syria (Babar 2018). As a result, Lebanon and Jordan have faced severe budgetary cuts on food and other basic necessities for the Syrian refugees in the recent past. Notably, the UNHCR admitted that the damages occasioned by the budgetary cuts would be so devastating and irreversible. The number of families that will be at risk of malnutrition and without the much needed psychological support of the UNHCR will be too high in the future.
What the UNHCR could have done differently
Instead of cutting the budgetary allocations for the Syrian refugees, the UNHCR should have asked for the member states to increase contributions and to pay regularly. In the current system at the UN, the majority of humanitarian assistance comes from voluntary donors from both individuals and governments. The yearly global humanitarian budget currently stands at 19.52 billion US dollars, but only 7.15 billion US dollars come from international donors Syria (Babar 2018). This disparity shows that voluntary donors account for more funding compared to the member states. There is an urgent need for the UNHCR to change the current funding policy. A policy that would require the member states to contribute a higher amount more regularly would salvage the UNHCR and prevent it from cutting off the funding for the Syrian refugees. Given that the UNHCR has not taken tangible measures to increase its funding budget, it means that the Syrian refugees and other internally displaced persons will have to bear the consequences of underfunding. If the situation persists, many children are likely to die from malnutrition and lack of health support. Drastic measures are needed on the part of UNHCR to mitigate the effects of underfunding.
Overall, the never-ending Syrian Civil war that started like simple demonstrations between the protestors and the long-serving government has turned out to be the greatest conflict of our time. Claiming thousands of people and forcing millions of others into exile, the Syrian Civil seems to be getting out of control of international humanitarian bodies like UNHCR.
Babar, Baloch. “Refugees bear the cost of massive underfunding.” UNHCR in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. UNHCR. (October 2018). https://www.unhcr.org/news/briefing/2018/10/5bbc57d94/refugees-bear-cost-massive-underfunding.html
Barnes, Anne Evans. “Realizing protection space for Iraqi refugees: UNHCR in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.” UNHCR. (January 2009). https://www.unhcr.org/research/working/4981d3ab2/realizing-protection-space-iraqi-refugees-unhcr-syria-jordan-lebanon-anne.html
Ertürk, Eşref. “Intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) and their roles and activities in security, economy, health, and environment.” Journal of International Social Research 8, no. 37 (2015).